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Rail News: Canadian National Railway - CN

Mattagami First Nation sues CN over derailments, oil spills

[Editor's note: This story was updated Aug. 17 to include a comment from CN.]

Mattagami First Nation has filed a lawsuit against CN for damage caused by two train derailments near Gogoma, Ontario, in February and March 2015

The derailments spilled millions of liters of crude oil that damaged the local environment and watershed. The spills have had a "catastrophic" impact on the Mattagami First Nation's territory, First Nation officials said in a press release.

"This is our homeland. Because of the oil spills, many of our people don't go out on the land anymore," said Chief Chad Boissoneau. "It's devastating."

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for the harm the Mattagami First Nation believes has been caused to their aboriginal and treaty rights to the land. The suit also alleges CN was negligent in inspecting and maintaining its track, and failed to implement adequate safety and training measures.

CN has no comment on the litigation. But the company remains committed to cleaning up the environmental damage caused by the derailments, said CN spokesman Patrick Waldron.

"We've provided the community regular updates throughout the cleanup and monitoring process, as we worked with experts from across Canada and the United States to clean-up the spill and restore the natural habitat," Waldron said.

Last week, CN issued a statement in response to a Transportation Safety Board report on the March 2015 derailment, in which 39 tank cars derailed, spilling about 686,000 gallons of oil that ignited, caught fire and contaminated a nearby river.

In its statement, CN said that since the 2015 derailments the railroad has taken a "series of concrete actions to improve safety in Northern Ontario and across CN's network, including implementing stronger engineering standards for such rail repairs and inspections, better track maintenance processes for similar work tasks, and improved classroom and field training for all track workers."

The Class I remains committed to the environmental cleanup of the Makami River and surrounding area "and will not leave until that cleanup is complete and then will continue to monitor conditions for many years," CN's statement said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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